Status: A declining breeding species mainly on the north and west coast of Ireland. A scarce winter visitor to north-eastern coasts.
Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland due to declining breeding population. The European population is currently regarded as Secure by BirdLife International.
Identification: Very similar to a female Linnet and good views are needed to safely identify Twite. Has a smaller, more conical bill than Linnet. Adult summer male Twite have extensive black streaking on the back and breast, with a rather plain brown head. Most distinctive is the pink patch on the rump. The bill is grey. Adult winter male, adult females and juveniles are largely indistinguishable from each other. In this plumage, note the yellow bill, pale brown wash to the underparts with less extensive black streaking than shown on adult summer males.
Similar Species: Linnet
Call: The majority of the calls are similar to those of the Linnet and require some experience to be recognised. The most distinctive is a slightly nasal “tweeht”.
Diet: Feeds on seeds, split grain, buds and some insects, especially when feeding young.
Breeding: Now a very rare breeding species (ca. 100 pairs), confined to the coastal bogs of Counties Mayo and Donegal. Formerly bred along all coasts, including County Dublin but was never common. The decline in the breeding population has been attributed to changes in agricultural practices and overgrazing of heather hillsides. Outside of Ireland, the Twite has a very disjunct distribution with populations in Scotland (ca. 6,000 to 15,000 pairs), as well as Norway, the Caucasus and the Himalayas.
Wintering: The majority of breeding Twite remain relatively close to their breeding areas, though some may move considerable distances. The Irish population is joined in winter by some of the Scottish population, which tend to winter in coastal marshes and tilled fields along the north and north-east coasts (Antrim, Down and Louth). The total wintering population is estimated to be between 650 to 1,000 birds.
Where to See: Soldier’s Point near Dundalk in County Louth is one of the most reliable sites to see Twite in winter. The Belmullet Peninsula is one of the strongholds of the resident breeding population.
Monitored by: Twite Survey and the Countryside Bird Survey.